Piercing Heaven

For this week’s “Melanchthon Monday,” a short poem–only a couplet–on prayer, inspired by Luke 24.

EX LUCA 24. CAPITE.

Ut tua pertingat, penetretque precatio caelum,

Ardenti fiat speque fideque frequens.

“From Luke 24”

If you desire that your prayer may ascend up to heaven and pierce it,

Light it with hope and with faith; fan it, and let it arise.

Since the poem is on prayer, I thought I would include a relevant section from the section on prayer from Melanchthon’s Loci communes (in its third iteration as Loci praecipui theologici):

O the unspeakable goodness and mercy of God toward the church that sounds forth the word of the gospel! He commands that we see good things, and adds the most magnificent promises, in order to invite us to prayer. But great is the weakness, great is the dullness of the human mind that flees from God. Rouses, therefore, by so many commands and promises, let us correct our doubt, and let us begin to approach God with Christ as our leader, and let us not think that the divine promises are empty sounds, as the Epicureans pretend. Not in vain has God revealed himself with so many manifest testimonies; not in vain has he declared his will. He wills for our mental darkness and our doubts to be corrected by his own Word. It is an excellent saying of Tauler, therefore, that “the mind of man is never so eager to receive but that God is much more eager to give.” For he is true and a servant of his own promises.

In other words, our prayer is not grounded simply on God’s command, though that would be enough to obligate us to do it. God is more gracious, and knows that we would be wary to approach him without his promise that he receives us graciously for Christ’s sake despite our unworthiness. To hold this as true requires faith, and it is faith that responds to the promises. Thus Melanchthon says shortly after the quoted passage, “For the promises have been given so that faith may be kindled.” Christian prayer, then–as opposed to prayer in general, prayer in the abstract–is a matter, and an act, of saving faith. Without it, we cannot come to God at all.

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